British ace faces ‘Kremlin propaganda’ accusations
British tennis star Emma Raducanu has faced claims that she will be used as a “Kremlin propaganda tool” after the news that the teenager was hiring Russian coach Dmitry Tursunov ahead of her title defense at the US Open next month.
The Daily Mail reported on Wednesday that the 19-year-old was turning to the Moscow-born Tursunov after burning through a lengthy list of trainers since shocking the world with her triumph in New York last year.
Raducanu has struggled to recapture anything like the glittering form which saw her become Britain’s first female Grand Slam singles winner in 44 years.
The youngster has faced issues with injury and consistency in recent months, and bowed out in the second round at Wimbledon in June.
The British ace is hoping that Tursunov, who split from Estonian world number two Anett Kontaveit last month, can get her back on track.
But the decision to take a Russian route has not gone down well in UK political quarters, not least after Russian and Belarusian players were banned from all British events this summer – including Wimbledon.
Speaking to The Telegraph, the chair of the UK’s all-Parliamentary group on Russia, Chris Bryant, claimed that “the Kremlin will portray this as a PR coup” as well as “an indication that the UK doesn’t really care” about the situation in Ukraine.
“It’ll be a real shame if Emma goes ahead with this,” he added.
The Labour MP said he would “urge [Raducanu] to think again,” or at the very least “condemn” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “barbaric” actions in Ukraine.
Those sentiments were echoed by fellow MP Julian Knight, who is chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.
“It does jar to see a Russian coaching Britain’s number one rising star,” said the Conservative politician to the Telegraph.
“You would hope that the LTA [UK Lawn Tennis Association] would show some leadership on this and be able to advise Emma what is the best course of action.”
Knight claimed that Tursunov needed to be thoroughly sounded out on his views on the Ukrainian conflict before being granted the right to coach a player who has become one of her nation’s sporting darlings.
Neither Tursunov nor Raducanu have commented publicly on their cooperation, although the player’s team did confirm to the WTA that they would be working together on a “trial” basis for the upcoming North American tour swing.
Ranked number 10 in the world, Raducanu will most crucially be hoping to have a decent run at defending her US Open title when the action at Flushing Meadows begins on August 29.
Tursunov, 39, is a former playing star who reached the heights of world number 20 before retiring in 2017.
In addition to Kontaveit, he has worked with Belarusian top-10 star Aryna Sabalenka and Russian former world doubles number one Elena Vesnina.